Ranjona Banerji: Defending journalists’ right to live

22 Sep,2015

By Ranjona Banerji:


There is a point of view, understandably er, Hindutva rightwing, that journalists, liberals, intellectuals, academics and “secular” individuals are just making too much of a fuss about the sudden voice found by “fringe elements” of the Sangh Parivar, after the Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre.


After all, and this is true, successive government, including and in some cases especially those of the Congress, have in the past tried to muffle critical voices. The sedition charges brought against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi by the Maharashtra government during the India Against Corruption is a very good example of that. Also the banning of Javier Moro’s book on Sonia Gandhi. You can add to the list the fact that rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was killed in Pune during Congress rule and the police drew a blank there. And that writer and scholar MM Kalburgi was killed in Karnataka which is a Congress-ruled state.


However, there is no justification in copying someone else’s daft behaviour, having criticised it while you were in opposition. Also, there is the question of who threatened the lives of Dabholkar and Kalburgi and who has been arrested for the murder of Communist leader Govind Pansare. And then there is nowhere to run for supporters of the Hindutva rightwing. The space for intelligent or even reasoned discussion becomes limited when murder enters the equation. The Hindutva rightwing is fond of attacking Islamic fundamentalism and Islamists and Muslims in general all day and all night on social media but clearly are unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge that murdering those against their tenets is as reprehensible. Once that happens, we are fed the justifications. The Islamist terrorists who killed the cartoonists and employees of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were wrong but killing Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi is correct?


Their so-called crimes? Questioning the practice of idol worship, blind superstition and pushing forward a rationalist agenda. All of which are still legal in this nation.


In the Pansare murder, the spotlight has fallen on the group Sanatan Sanstha. According to the police, the suspects had also threatened journalists Shyamsundar Sonnar and Nikhil Wagle. Sonnar for rationalist views and his interpretations of Sant Tukaram’s teachings and Wagle of course has long been a target for his refusal to be cowed down, in spite of all the vicious hatred he has been subjected to, with a lot of help it must sadly be said, from his colleagues. While Sonar has filed a police complaint and requested security, Wagle has refused anything that will hamper his journalistic activities.


As media people, most will stand with both Sonnar and Wagle but there will always be some specimens, particularly within the Marathi journalism fraternity. There is a particular sort of venom here which I am unable to understand. You can disagree with someone’s values, with the way they practise their craft even. But secretly approving of harm and death seems a bit, well extreme. There are many journalists I myself don’t like much and some very prominent ones, but I will defend to the end their right to live!


This article in Mumbai Mirror, by the way, explains the irrationality of the Hindutva supporter: http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/cover-story/We-had-requested-him-warned-him-but-he-didnt-stop/articleshow/49039957.cms




With sustained media, social media and public pressure the UP police managed to arrest the man who had been threatening the women journalists of Khabar Lahariya. Although this story from scroll.in says that the man is unrepentant, he is at least in jail by now. If only, though, police would take harassment charges more seriously. If this the way journalists, who have some influence, are treated, we all know how the common man or woman is dismissed by the police and government authorities…




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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Defending journalists’ right to live”

  1. Deadlyrocker says:

    I second what you say. I am a freelance journalist and have been extremely vocal on my social media platforms but a few friends actually told me to go easy before I fall prey to a .38. Modi / BJP did portray a great vision and are definitely better than the Congress BUT this entire Hindutva fever is driving us nuts. Is everyone going to sit still and do nothing. The RSS, the various sansthas – are we living in HItler’s times?

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